Simone Biles faced a lot of criticism when she decided to pull out of several gymnastic events at last summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games. But the four-time Olympic gold medalist has stood by her decision to prioritize her mental health.
"Walking away from the Olympic Games was a win in itself. I know a lot of people thought I failed because they expected me to go out with five or six medals, but walking out of it was my biggest win," she explained, according to People.
"I had to put myself into consideration for one of the first times throughout my career. Most of the time, I've always put myself on the back burner, because I've always cared and thought about everybody else before myself."
As any parent can attest, remembering to put yourself first can be difficult and even induce feelings of guilt in some. Still, self-care is vital — and necessary — even in regards to other people, be it an Olympic team of gymnasts or a your family. Biles’ brave act of self-care is evidence of that.
Before dropping out of the events, Biles had “the twisties,” a disorienting phenomenon sometimes experienced by gymnasts that makes them lose air awareness. Instead of pushing herself past her limit, Biles realized that toughing it out would not just put her in danger, but the team as well.
“That would be so selfish of me to put the team's medal contention in jeopardy, put myself in jeopardy... I had to be like, 'Simone, it's okay. It's not the end of the world, it's just sports. If you walk away from this and you still are walking, that's a win in your book.'"
Today, Biles counts the decision as a moment where she was “probably the most courageous I’ve ever been.”
"I had worked for five years and I didn't want to let that dream go. I had to put myself first, listen to my mind and body, what my heart was telling me to do," Biles said. "I had to put my pride aside and say, 'Okay, this isn't going to work.'“
Biles’ strength in vulnerability made a massive impact on people’s lives. Yes, she caught some flack, but Biles also said that people approach her on the street and applaud of choice of honoring her physical and mental health.
The gymnast, who also just got engaged two months ago, now has a routine of self-care set up. This includes weekly therapy for Biles to “get out of my own head” and taking time to journal and engage in positive self-talk in the mirror.
"I've struggled with that growing up and to this day. Everybody's going to tell you you're good enough. My strength is I like proving people wrong and going above and beyond," she said during the panel. "That's what I like to do."